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Building Your Event Budget

By Hannah Hegman

Creating the event budget is a challenging but necessary step to take when you begin to imagine your event. The event budget helps to create expectations during the planning process and sets goals for everyone to meet. In the first year of an event, your budget may not be line by line, but rather larger buckets – but that’s okay! It is necessary to start somewhere and be ready to be flexible when the time comes. For more established events, it is always good practice to review your budget at the beginning of the planning process to determine if any line items should be adjusted that year to reflect any new areas of the event or other factors that may impact the budget, such as a milestone or anniversary. In either situation, a post-event budget review is necessary to ensure that the dollars were spent in the right place and to set up for success in the next year.

Every event budget will look slightly different as it applies to the event, below are a few buckets to ensure are on your next budget and some points to consider.

  • Venue – Consider what is all included in this line item. The obvious is room rental but make sure you are accounting for additional line items that may be covered by the venue such as table and chair rentals, staffing for a coat check, and sometimes even some audio/visual support.
  • Catering – In the catering line item you may also include things like tax and service fees, private tastings or special desserts not provided by your main caterer.
  • Marketing – Marketing is a large bucket that is often broken down into smaller buckets. Overall, marketing will include registration software, pre-event marketing such as invites, event signage and other printed materials. This bucket often includes branded material for the event such as giveaways, awards, etc.
  • Service Partners – Consider what other elements are needed to really make your event come to life. This bucket can include everything standard at an event – such as photographers, photo booths, auctioneers, and keynote speakers – to the extraordinary such as a band, live entertainment Giant Piano!), and actors to bring your theme to life.
  • Decor – The decor budget is often the most fluctuating budget. When there is a little extra – I love to amp up the floral or bring in some more accent lighting, but when budgets get tight, the decor line item is normally what takes a hit. (Planner Tip to Save: Consider what comes with your venue rental. You can often get table votives, basic linens, and sometimes even more just by asking!)

These 6 categories are included in every budget we create but don’t forget about the things that might make your event unique.

When it comes to the revenue side of the budget, consider all incoming dollars.

  • Ticket Sales
  • Sponsorships
  • Onsite Revenue Games (Auctions, Raffles, Appeals, Merchandise Sales, etc)
  • In-Kind

When we’re planning an event, at a bare minimum that event expenses should be covered before your event even starts. So if you are having trouble figuring out how much you can spend on an event or how much you need to raise to make an event worth it, start by making sure your sponsorships and event expenses cross each other out. As your event grows, your sponsorships will more than cover your event expenses, but every event starts somewhere!

Event budgets are tough because of the fluid and unpredictable nature of events – but the moments that happen from the time you set your budget to the day you do your post-event budget is pretty incredible. Whether it’s the push to land one more sponsor or the excitement of getting to spend a little more somewhere fun because you found cost savings, a well thought out budget will help you achieve your goals and surpass them.

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